UCSD Splits Holiday Weekend

    MEN’S BASKETBALL — The Tritons picked up their first win of the season over the weekend, taking part in the Notre Dame de Namur Thanksgiving Tournament in Belmont, Calif. The Tritons started the tournament off right with a 76-53 win over host Notre Dame de Namur on Nov. 28. UCSD then completed its Thanksgiving weekend road trip against Central Washington University, starting a second-half comeback before eventually falling by a 78-70 final score on Nov. 29. Junior guard Jordan Lawley led the Tritons in both contests, scoring a game-high 17 points against Notre Dame de Namur and a career-best 31 points in the loss to Central Washington. UCSD now holds a 1-3 record overall as it prepares for the season’s first conference competition.

    After scoring only one basket in the first seven minutes, the Tritons trailed early against Central Washington. The Wildcats built an eight-point advantage with four three-pointers early in the first half.

    However, with Central Washington falling ice cold from a long distance, UCSD put together a 10-1 run to take the lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Lawley capped the run with a steal and layup that put the score at 20-19.

    Notre Dame de Namur All-Tournament Team honoree Jake Beitinger responded to the UCSD streak, scoring five straight points to put Central Washington University back on top. Senior guard Alan Husted’s three-point basket and three free throws from Lawley helped the Tritons tie the game at 26 with less than five minutes remaining in the half. Unfortunately, head coach Chris Carlson’s squad was unable to keep pace with three Wildcat three-pointers down the stretch, as UCSD trailed 44-34 at the half.

    With three more connections from behind the arc in the first four minutes of the second half, Central Washington took its biggest lead of the game, 57-40. With 15:35 left in the game, Lawley and senior guard Shane Poppen took over the Triton offensive output. After five straight points from Poppen, Lawley rolled off the next 11 UCSD points with a combination of jumpers, free throws and a three-pointer. Poppen then responded with the next five points before Lawley capped the duo’s showing with a free throw that cut the lead to six — 68-62 — with just over seven minutes to play.

    As defenses stepped up and the hot shooting cooled down on both sides, neither team scored for the next three minutes. Husted’s layup with 3:44 remaining ended the dry spell and brought the score to 68-64. However, after missed shot opportunities on both ends, Beitinger hit a jumper to give Central Washington a six-point lead, with the Tritons getting no closer the rest of the way.

    “Their guys were just making shots and we dug a hole for ourselves that was just too big to climb out of,” Husted said of the team’s first loss to a Division-II opponent. “Our defensive intensity was much better in the second-half, but we couldn’t overcome our lackluster defensive performance from the first-half.”

    Lawley’s 31 points bested his previous career-high of 24, which he scored against Alaska Anchorage in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. Three other Tritons scored in double digits, as Poppen added 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds off the bench, while Husted and senior guard Kelvin Kim scored 11 points each.

    While committing only one more turnover, grabbing three fewer rebounds and shooting an impressive 23-of-30 from the foul line, the Tritons were unable to keep up with Central Washington’s shooting from the field. The Wildcats converted nearly 60 percent of their shots in the first half, including 8-of-15 from behind the arc, and shot an impressive 51.9 percent in the game.

    The Tritons had the hot hand during their opening game of the tournament against Notre Dame de Namur, as Lawley, Kim, Husted and freshman center Ryan Wheeler each contributed for the Tritons, scoring the first nine points. While the Triton offense cooled down, stout defense held the Argonauts to only seven points through the game’s first 12 minutes.

    However, UCSD was able to wake up on the offensive end to close out the half. After Notre Dame de Namur cut the advantage to two, 15-13, with 4:34 to play before the break, the Tritons more than equaled their scoring output to that point. Husted scored 10 of UCSD’s next 16 points, including a steal and layup with three seconds remaining in the first half, as the Tritons went into the break with a 31-20 advantage.

    Husted continued firing out of the break, opening UCSD’s second-half scoring with a three-pointer. Lawley followed that up with a pair of jumpers and another long-distance basket as the Tritons quickly increased their lead to 16 just four minutes into the second half. The Argonauts were unable to get any closer than 14 points the rest of the way, as the Tritons continued their shooting exhibition. UCSD took its first 20 point advantage of the game with 5:58 to play after two Wheeler free throws. Wheeler followed that up with another jumper for UCSD, before Poppen scored inside on consecutive possessions with a layup and exclamation-point dunk off of an assist from senior forward Patrick Dreith. Dreith capped off the win for UCSD as his layup with 27 seconds left gave the Tritons a 76-52 advantage and their largest lead of the game.

    UCSD shot a blistering 69.6 percent from the field in the second half and grabbed 36 rebounds in the game, compared to only 26 boards for Notre Dame de Namur. With 13 Tritons seeing game action, Carlson received a balanced attack from his squad. The UCSD bench outscored its Notre Dame de Namur counterparts 26-12 in the second half, while three Tritons scored in double digits.

    “It was great for us to get our first win of the year on the road against a Division-II opponent,” Husted said. Guys coming off the bench have been doing a great job this season. Shane [Poppen] and Casey [Ryan] have been doing a great job of providing a spark and bringing their high energy to the court. Our big men are doing a great job as well battling inside and are going to be huge as we get into the conference.”

    Lawley led the way with 17 points and was named to the Notre Dame de Namur All-Tournament Team after averaging 24 points during two games. Husted added 16 points and a game-high five assists, while Wheeler scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Poppen again grabbed a game-high seven boards as UCSD scored nine second-chance points and 26 points in the paint during a victory in which it never trailed.

    The Tritons return to action this weekend, facing Humboldt State in a California Collegiate Athletic Association opener on Dec. 5. UCSD then hosts Sonoma State on Dec. 6. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tip-offs at RIMAC Arena.

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